Our coalition, Right to The City Boston, launches push for rent control

At the 4th Boston People's Plan assembly in late September, dozens of grassroots organizations led by Bostonians on the frontlines of the displacement crisis launched a push for rent control. Over 100 people divided into teams and hit the streets of several Boston neighborhoods, door-knocking and asking residents to sign a pledge to support rent control. 

25 years ago, real estate giants and the politicians that do their bidding dismantled protections from rent gouging and sent our housing market spiraling out of control. Now we're living in the extreme aftermath of that moment. It's time to revive rent control in Boston! 

SIGN THE PLEDGE ONLINE to support rent control in our city: reclaimboston.org/rent_control_pledge

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Renters Rising Dinner and Concert for Rent Control

Thanks to all 75 of you who attended our beautiful outdoor dinner to benefit our work for rent control on Saturday, 9/21! Tremendous thanks to Onsite Organic for the totally amazing cuisine.

We closed out the festivities with a big concert at Spontaneous Celebrations community center. The lineup included reggae bands Ghetto People and Uhynoo, as well as songwriter David Rovics on tour from the west coast, and hip hop legends Foundation Movement. 

We held these events to build our movement to bring rent control back to Boston. Sign the pledge here to support rent control! 

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Grandmothers hold rally after receiving $700 rent hikes

Late last year, two Mattapan grandmothers, Ruby James Saucer and Michelle Ewing of 22 Rexford St., each received notice of $700 rent hikes from their landlord, PCS Dixwell Realty Trust owned by Christ Stamatos and Josh Cohen. Stamatos is affiliated with Jamaica Plain based Pondside Realty. The grandmothers - who live on small, fixed incomes - consulted with lawyers via the housing justice organization City Life/Vida Urbana and refused to pay the unaffordable rent hikes. But Stamatos and Cohen responded with 30-day eviction notices. Since then, the grandmothers have been battling the evictions in court.

In the pouring rain on Thursday, September 26th, Ruby and Michelle led a rally and march that stopped first at Pondside Realty on Centre Street, holding a rally there before marching to the headquarters of PCS Dixwell Realty on the Jamaicaway.

"This is exactly the kind of predatory real estate practice that's tearing our communities and families apart," said Steve Meacham, a housing justice organizer with City Life/Vida Urbana who is helping the women keep their homes. 

The rally rode on the coat-tails of last Saturday's launch of a city-wide campaign for rent control. Over a dozen resident-led groups in the Right to The City Boston coalition kicked off the campaign at the Boston People's Plan gathering, ending the day by door-knocking around the city in support of rent control.

Michele Ewing is a long-time community activist. She has lived at 22 Rexford St. for 25 years. Most recently, Ewing worked at Jobs with Justice as part of the Mature Workers Program, supporting the labor rights movement. Ewing is deeply involved in the newly-formed Mattapan Council, helping to monitor development proposals. Ewing has raised 3 children at 22 Rexford St., one of them still calls the apartment home.

Ruby James Saucer is also very involved in the movement for housing justice. She was active in fighting predatory loans during the foreclosure crisis. Saucer has attended countless City Life meetings to help Boston residents organize to save their homes. After moving to 22 Rexford St. 4 years ago, Saucer was elected to the Mattapan Council. Saucer now serves on the Leadership Team of City Life/Vida Urbana.

“I’m fighting to help other people in the same situation that I am in - the threat of being homeless. I’m fighting the predatory developers who want to come in and take over Mattapan,” says Saucer.


Both Ewing and Saucer have made it clear that they're fighting for stable, affordable homes for themselves, their neighbors and their community. In their letter to Cohen and Stamatos dated January 8th, 2019, they said the following:


"Michele wants a Sec. 8 rent that is limited to the payment standard set by the BHA. This standard is adjusted for unit size and utility allowance. It keeps the tenant share at 30% of income. Ruby wants a limit to rent increases of 3% per year."

Thanks to everyone who stood in solidarity with these brave elders. We await a quick resolution to these outrageous rent hikes and evictions. 

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Bus ride to stop evictions of older women at Fenway rooming house

On July 27th, our "Justice Bus" - filled with older women fighting eviction and supporters - rolled into New Britain, Connecticut. We organized the journey to protest no-fault evictions at a Fenway rooming house called Our Lady's Guild House. Mother Jennifer (the head of the order of nuns that owns the building) and Marc Roos Realty have been trying to push out a group of older women there, but the women are rising up to save their homes. 

Right when we got off the bus, the sky opened up -  a summer storm drenched us. We had to hold our rally and press conference under thundering clouds. 

But our protest went on! Several local outlets showed up and published stories about the evictions, including WTNH Channel 8, the New Britain Herald, and Fox 61. 

In Boston, a powerful story ran the Metro section of the Boston Globe

After the rally, we piled our wet signs back into the bus and drove to Mother Jennifer's residence nearby. When we attempted to deliver our petition with over 1,300 signatures to Mother Jennifer, she refused to talk to us. So we held a rally across from her residence.

Our bus ride was all about perseverance and solidarity as a community: we won’t let unjust evictions continue!

An estimated 10 to 20 older women in their '60's, '70's and '80's were told to leave Our Lady's Guild House by the end of July of last year. They hadn't violated their leases or failed to pay rent; these were "no fault" notices to quit. Many women pack their bags and left. Three women have eviction cases in housing court, and at least 5 others remain without a lease and have yet to receive a court summons. 

In response to the eviction notices, several of the women organized to save their homes - with support from the housing justice organization City Life/Vida Urbana and the Fenway Community Development Corporation. They drew a crowd of about 100 supporters to a rally last August in front of Roos's office.

This past winter, the residents engaged the Massachusetts Attorney General's office regarding concerns over age discrimination and the misuse of charitable status, as reported by The Boston Globe. The AG's investigation is expected to result in public findings this fall, and the evictions are on pause while the investigation is underway.

Without their tiny rooms to call home in Boston's searing hot housing market, many of the women are unsure where they could live. 

"It's upsetting. It's hard to find housing in Boston. It's the 3rd most expensive city in the country for housing," Siobhan O'Connor, one of the older women facing eviction, said on a recent NBC Boston news story

The nuns have stated that their mission is to “provide safe and affordable housing for single women, working women, retired women or students.” But OLGH's website recently advertised “a short-term residence for women between the ages of 18 and 50 years old who work in the Boston area and/or attend school or internship programs” (this language was promptly edited once the tenants began organizing). Some units in the building have also been recently advertised to tourists on the short-term rental website AirBNB.

Although the building ostensibly operates under a charitable mission, Colleen Fitzpatrick, a Community Organizer at Fenway Community Development Corporation, said, "We're asking the question: What charitable mission is really being served here now?"

"The new people moving in are predominantly students, and both voter rolls and resident testimony indicate that the average age of residents has plummeted," Fitzpatrick added.

"The evictions of the OLGH women are part of a larger trend of Single Room Occupancy (SRO) building-wide clear-outs," said Steve Meacham, Coordinator of Organizing at City Life/Vida Urbana. "Even owners who are supposedly mission-driven are jumping in on real estate speculation now, but we're demanding that this building become permanently affordable housing," Meacham added.

City Life/Vida Urbana has recently supported rooming house residents facing eviction from two other buildings, and we're working to build more relationships with other Boston rooming house residents to prevent displacement.

All images courtesy of Elliot Higger, Sunny Mind Productions

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Our Spring 2019 fundraising drive, Give to The Heart of The City, was a big success!

This June, we launched our biggest spring fundraising campaign in City Life history. Over the last two years, over 70 of our members and community have gone through our Radical Redistribution training and gained the skills we need to be grassroots fundraisers. By building our organization with small donations focused in our communities, we’re able to ensure that City Life has full autonomy to fight for real and systemic change. 

We went in to our spring fundraiser with an optimistic goal of raising $30,000 from grassroots fundraising efforts. This was especially challenging because we didn’t have a huge fundraiser event like we did last year, so if we were going to meet our goal, we needed to try something different, and we did a lot: 

  • 36 people, mostly CLVU leaders (and even some brave new supporters) leveled up their fundraising skills through volunteering to be powerbuilders.
  • we held 4 trainings/workshops in June, 3 in JP and one in East Boston
  • we had folks come in last week to phonebank (thanks Robin, Claire, Bob, and Judy!)
  • and we sent over 800 letters to donors to let them know what we're up to

And it paid off!

  • Our goal was: $30,000, 300 donors, 30 new sustainers
  • We had 294 donations (85 of these are new donors!)
  • We have 22 new sustainers (monthly donors)
  • Which means that, as a result of our work, we raised $30,216. We met our goal!

Thank you to everyone who participated, volunteered, donated, and shared our posts on social media. We couldn’t have done this without you.



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Hyde Park families rally for their right to stable, affordable homes

When you have moldy walls, flooding, and carpet from the last millennium - AND get retaliatory rent hikes and eviction notices for complaining - what do you do? ORGANIZE! Thanks to the 100+ people who came to the Stony Brook Village Tenants Association's rally on June 2nd, 2019. People power is what it takes to send the message to Lincoln Ave. Capital and Sawyer Realty Holdings: NEGOTIATE!

The Stony Brook Tenants Union formed in November 2018 to fight against the unhealthy housing conditions, rent increases, and evictions at Stony Brook Village in Hyde Park, a subsidized apartment complex. Since that time, management (Sawyer Realty Holdings, Newton, MA) and the landlord (Lincoln Ave Capital) have not addressed our complaints, and in fact have retaliated against many of us with exorbitant rent increases and unjustified evictions. Unrepaired mold, pests and other dangerous conditions in our homes are damaging to our health, and the constant rent increases above the subsidized payment standard are threatening to displace us.

SBTU has sent multiple open letters to the landlord and management laying out these problems, the latest was co-signed by 50 tenants of Stony Brook Village, representing half of the units in the building, and there has been no response! Lincoln Ave. Capital: meet with the union and meet our demands!

Get your feet in the street and show solidarity with people around the Boston area facing eviction! Sign up for our Action Alert List HERE.

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Boston People's Plan Assembly: June 29th, 2019

Build real solutions to Boston’s displacement crisis, led by the people most impacted.

REGISTER NOW: bit.ly/HFABoston629. 10am to 4pm, Saturday, June 29th, at Vietnamese American Initiative for Development (VietAID)42 Charles St, Boston, MA 02122

Tired of neighbors, friends and family getting displaced? Think the rent is too damn high? Tired of widespread luxury development? Then JOIN US for a Boston assembly to build a people’s plan for equitable development and an end to displacement.

LUNCH / CHILDCARE / INTERPRETATION

Hosted by Right to the City Boston and our Homes For All local partners and allies. 

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Comment now on Suffolk Downs, Boston's massive new housing project

Take a stand for housing justice: comment on Suffolk Downs today!

The 10,000 new units of housing proposed by HYM Investment Group for the former Suffolk Downs race track would, in essence, add an entire new neighborhood to Boston. It's impact would be acutely felt in the predominantly working class immigrant neighborhood of East Boston.

To email a quick comment, simply click here. Ask the Mayor and HYM to:

1. Mayor Walsh: Slow down the process! Work with housing advocates and residents to address our concerns.

2. Mayor Walsh and Tom O'Brien: The project needs to have real affordability. The Boston People's Assembly (a citywide gathering of residents creating a People’s Plan for Boston) demands that all new development must have at least 50% affordability for families. We agree! Suffolk Downs should have 50% affordability for families at 25% of Area Median Income.

3. Mayor Walsh and Tom O'Brien: Work with housing justice advocates and residents on creating a displacement mitigation plan that will keep East Boston families in our homes. In another part of the city, the Fairmount Corridor, the mayor pledged to protect the housing of all residents at risk of displacement. You both have a responsibility to protect all Eastie families.

4. Mayor Walsh and Tom O’Brien: Ensure that weather-resistant green spaces like the parks, bike lanes, and outdoor theater are publicly visible and accessible for all neighborhood residents to use.

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City Life's community organizing makes front page news in The Boston Globe

City Life's work with older women fighting eviction at Our Lady's Guild House was featured on the front page of The Boston Globe. We're on the ground supporting the women alongside Fenway Community Development Corporation. The nuns that own this large rooming house, The Daughters of Mary of the Immaculate Conception, have strayed from their mission of helping those in need and instead are operating much like the large profit-driven owners we deal with every day. After reading the article, SIGN THE PETITION in solidarity with these bold women - help us reach 1,500 signatures!

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City Life/Vida Urbana on Radio Boston: Displacement in Egleston Square

We're on WBUR's Radio Boston, talking about how the displacement crisis has hit Egleston Square. What does it take to stop the displacement of historically redlined immigrant neighborhoods like Egleston? Organizing for real affordability & tenant protections!

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